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The Humanities Conference 2003

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The Management Secrets of the Sir Topham Hatt: Leadership Lessons from Thomas the Tank Engine

Prof. David C. Wyld.

When one examines the best-selling children’s books of all time, a little blue engine named Thomas has more entries than the “Harry come lately” that has been all the rage this summer. In fact, the Thomas the Tank Engine series of twenty-six stories, written by the Anglican Reverend Wilbert Awdry, occupy more spots on the Publisher’s Weekly listing of the best-selling children’s books in history than Harry Potter himself.

The Thomas the Tank Engine books have leapt-off the printed page in the United States, becoming the basis for television shows, videos, feature films, and yes, toys, for the so-called “toddler set.” Tales from the Island of Sodor – the fictional post-World War II setting of Sir Topham Hatt’s (a.k.a “The Fat Controller’s) railway - have thus reached an audience in size and scope far beyond what Reverend Awdry could have imagined at the time of his death.

Over the years, various authors have analyzed – and perhaps overanalyzed – The Thomas the Tank Engine series from a variety of standpoints. To date, however, no one has examined the Awdry’s books from the perspective of what type of leadership and management lessons the tales of the engines of the railway impart to today’s youthful readership.

This paper looks at the Thomas the Tank Engine series with a critical eye, examining how Sir Topham Hatt’s leadership style conveys both the simplicity of a bygone era and timeless managerial advice for any time.


Prof. David C. Wyld  (United States)
Professor of Management
College of Business & Technology Department of Management
Southeastern Louisiana University

Dr. David C. Wyld currently serves as the Mayfield Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a widely published and cited for his academic and professional work on a variety of management topics. Dr. Wyld is the author of the new book, INTERNATIONAL LITERACY: A GEOGRAPHIC BRIEFING FOR TODAY’S BUSINESS STUDENTS (ISBN: 0536746699) from Pearson Custom Publishing.

  • Children’s Literature
  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Organizational Culture
  • Conflict
Person as Subject
  • Awdry, Rev. Wilbert

(Virtual Presentation, English)